Friday, July 29, 2011

Backpacking and a Blog Hop

On Saturday, I took off with the dogs early and headed to the East side of the mountains. For those of us from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, anything east of the mountains is Eastern Oregon, no matter what people from over there say. We headed to the Mill Creek Wilderness outside of Prineville, with the goal of doing the Twin Pillars hike as a 3 day backpacking trip.

(Pallo in front of Steins Pillar)

The trail follows along Mill Creek most of the way, crossing over many times. Like, a ton of times. I gave up on trying to keep my feet dry after the second crossing and just sloshed through in my shoes.

Pallo managed to break his pack after the first 40 minutes of hiking, and had a chance to romp around in the water with no pack while I got out my knife, some extra twine, and did a jerry-rigged strap to salvage the pack. (This is why you should never plan on doing serious backpacking with a cheapo pack from PetCo.) Since he is a strange shape, I already had to alter the pack to fit him before we left for the trip, so while it got a little less glamorous, luckily his pack stayed functional the whole time.

Koira's pack I believe is an older style Granite Gear pack I bought off of Craigslist. Somehow I ended up with two very strangely shaped dogs, and the super adjustability of this pack was really the only thing I was interested in. By cinching in most of the straps all the way and letting out a few of them, I was able to get a much better fit for Koira than any other brand or style pack we've come across.

We hiked in about 4 miles before making our base camp down a little side trail that led no where. Then me and Koira ditched out packs and Pallo carried water for all of us as we did some additional hiking. He had the most energy, didn't seem bothered by his pack at all, and Koira was limping a little bit, having scraped a paw at some point on the trail.

The two shorter hikes we took that evening went up away from Mill Creek. It was super hot, and we hit a burn area where there was very little shade. Instead of pushing on all the way to the base of Twin Pillars, I decided we would try it again in the morning while it was still cooler out.

We headed back to base camp and spent an uncomfortable night on the hard ground. This is kind of one of the unavoidable things about backpacking, which I try to forget about, since the rest of it is so fun.

In the morning, the dogs got a breakfast of Honest Kitchen dehydrated raw (way lighter to carry than their normal whole raw meat), then we geared up and set out. Koira was limping pretty bad though, and I discovered a blister under her front leg. Instead of taking the day hike up to the pillars, I decided we would just go ahead and hike out, and I strapped Koira's pack onto mine, so as not to irritate her sore.

We hiked out a lot faster than the in hike, getting back to the car by 10am. It was starting to get pretty toasty by then, so we hung out by the creek for a little while before taking off for home. We stopped in at one of our favorite swimming holes on the South Santiam river back on the West side of the mountains. Koira loves swimming, especially in the river, and it didn't seem to hurt her sore much. Unfortunately by the time we got home I was running a low grade fever, which ended up spiking the next day and spent a few days hovering between 100 and 102. I guess its a good thing we hiked out when we did, because it would have been way less than fun to do the out hike while sick.

A bit of a note about packs. For humans, I personally prefer internal frame packs. I find them more comfortable to wear than external frame packs. Make sure the straps fit snug down on your shoulders (most packs have adjustable back sizes to get this right). Mess around with all the straps to adjust the load to the most comfortable point. You want the majority of the weight to be on the waist strap, with the shoulder and chest pieces simply there to help balance the load more than carry it. And, pack light!

For dogs, the most important thing is a good fit. The weight of the pack should be as far forward over their shoulders as possible. A lot of high-profile companies make packs that sit in the middle of a dog's back, which puts major pressure on the spine. It would be similar to you carrying your pack without the waist strap- not safe or comfortable, and likely to cause injury. That said, the next most important thing is to get a pack that fits your dog well. The pack should not shift a lot or rub. Many have an extra strap or two that go around the entire pack and dog to help secure the load, and these are great (I plan on adding one to Koira's pack next time I have a sewing day). Dogs can carry up to 30% of their body weight, but should be started out much lighter until they get used to carrying a pack, then slowly increase the weight. I never pack food on my dogs (human or dog food) because of the risk of bears, cougars, or coyotes smelling it and going after them. I can ditch my pack, my dogs can't. Normally the dogs carry water, water bowls, extra leashes, and a first aid kit.

Now enjoy the Saturday Blog Hop:


  1. Great photos. So sorry to hear your week-end was cut short.

    We made it to the top of McKenzie Pass last week-end, it was beautiful.

  2. Gave it a lot of thought to get a backpack for my dogs. Thanks for the heads up not to by one that the dogs wear in the middle! Most of them I have seen so far in shops were positioned exactly there.

  3. What a great adventure you had and you look so cool in your backpacks. Thanks for sharing some great information too.

  4. That hiking looks like a lot of fun! The dogs look awesome in their backpacks, too.

  5. Looks like another nice place for a dip :-)

  6. What a beautiful area! I wish we had nice rivers and creeks like here.

  7. Dawgs, that looks like so much fun!! We'll have to talk mom into a trip like that when the weather cools off a bit!

    Boondocks & The Love Shack Pack

  8. Lots of good info! I do plenty of day hikes with Parker and Skye, but haven't been brave enough to try actual backpacking. It's on my to-do list though!

  9. Oh so much nice scenerey and YES lots of water. I have never been to Oregon, but My Vickie says she and Jamie used to come out there all the time to train the search dogs in Portland.

    She said it was THE MOST BEAUTIFUL place ever, and because ofyour pictures, she just said that we should take a road trip for old times sake.

    Thanks, you just made my day.


  10. How big is your pack?

    My hope is to accumulate the gear to be able to do some overnight trips next summer. We'll see.

    Fantastic pics! Koira is in superb condition! Look at those muscles!

  11. that looks like fun, makes me want to go on a hike. :)

  12. Is that Blog Hop or Log Hop! :)

    You look mighty handsome in your packs. :)

  13. Better luck next time. I'm so tempted to get a back pack for my hounds.

  14. That looks like a great hike and a wonderful place to do it in. Love the rivers. I don't know what Frankie and Beryl would think about backpacking it. Luckily for them it won't happen as we don't have anywhere around here to go camping or hiking.